Don't Let Your Water Birth Plans Go Down The Drain

Laboring and giving birth in water is a popular option for many moms. So, why are some hospitals banning water births?

Woman having water birth |

Photo credit: Science Photo Library - IAN HOOTON/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement regarding the safety of water birth, saying that the practice, "should be considered an experimental procedure that only should be performed within the context of an appropriately designed clinical trial with informed consent."

Experimental. Really? Seems to me it's only experimental to OB-GYNs who don't have experience with women who choose water birth.

You can read more in depth about the lack of good studies that have been done regarding the safety of water birth here, but the bottom line is just because not enough studies have been done to evaluate the risks and benefits of having a water birth, that doesn't mean water birth is dangerous.

If you choose to birth in a hospital and want a water birth, my advice is to find out if it's an option as soon as possible. You may be surprised to learn how different water birth protocols can be — I worked at one hospital where one OB and midwife practice allowed water birth but another did not. Your doctor may suggest laboring in water, which is a great option for pain relief but not the same thing as being immersed in warm water as you deliver your baby.

Learn about the benefits of a water birth >>

Choosing water birth in a hospital

If an OB isn't too keen on water birth, or if a hospital isn't set up for it, Barbara Harper, founder of Waterbirth International suggests moms do their research, then talk to the powers that be.

"When they understand the benefits and have actual studies in hand, they can communicate their desire and their knowledge to their provider," says Harper. "Most providers are open to learning more and perhaps using a non-pharmaceutical method of increasing comfort. But providers are not the ones in charge in hospitals. The person who really needs to advocate for changing a policy or instituting a practice is the manager of the labor and delivery unit, sometimes called the Mother-Baby unit. This person is almost always a nurse who has worked in maternity care most of her career. The manager is the one who coordinates all of the different departments to agree to a change in policy, holds meetings to educate the staff and secures the approvals for equipment purchases."

Creating change to get the water birth you want

Once you talk to your doctor about your plan to have a water birth, Harper suggests making an appointment with the nurse manager. She says, "State your desires and let her know you are cooperative and exactly how willing your provider is to accommodate your wishes. And then be persistent. In most cases it will take a good five to six months to get a new policy into place. The larger the hospital, the longer it will take. Sometimes small hospitals can change policy in just a few months."

Check out these tips for planning a water birth >>

I echo Harper's sentiments when she says, "My best advice to women is be sure of yourself and your choices. Know your own heart and once you make a plan, hold the vision and work toward it. Using water during any part of the labor is a benefit to both mother and baby. If the baby emerges in the water into your own hands, it is an amazing event."

Best of luck with your water birth journey!

Read more

How to prepare for a water birth
The truth about labor progress
How to write a birth plan


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